Montana keeping the pressure on in AIS battle

(Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks photo)

Across the state, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks watercraft inspection station staff are checking hundreds of vessels each day, prompted by the discovery of mussel larvae in water samples last year.

The samples came from the Tiber Reservoir last fall, and combined with a sample from Canyon Ferry Reservoir that was suspect for the larvae, has resulted in a significant increase in Montana’s AIS prevention efforts.

Among other things, this has meant a doubling of watercraft inspection stations around the state and a change in statute to require more watercraft inspection requirements. This year all watercraft coming into Montana from out of state must be inspected prior to launching. The same holds true for all watercraft traveling across the Continental Divide into the Columbia River Basin. Also, watercraft leaving Tiber and Canyon Ferry Reservoirs must be inspected and, if necessary, decontaminated. And, like last year, all watercraft must stop when they encounter an inspection station.

So far this year nearly 10,000 watercraft have come through FWP AIS inspection stations, and wardens have written over 35 citations for not stopping at inspection stations. However, the focus for wardens is to educate watercraft owners about the dangers AIS pose to Montana’s waters and the new requirements for ensuring all boats are complying with the law.

Along with operating inspection stations from Sula to Culbertson, AIS staff have started their monitoring work, collecting water samples state-wide looking for invasive mussel larvae. So far AIS monitoring crews have collected about 60 samples and samples will continue to be collected and analyzed throughout the season. Before the season is over, more than 1,000 samples from waterbodies across the state will be analyzed.

For more information on inspection stations, local boater programs and FWP’s mussel response, check out musselresponse.mt.gov.

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